The Book Of Barely Imagined Beings:

A 21st Century Bestiary by Caspar Henderson (Granta, £10.99)

Henderson gives a lovely cultural history of animals we know (like the octopus) and animals we may not (like the Yeti Crab) as he gently exhorts us to look around our planet and care about its wonders a little more, especially those who live in the sea. His research is impressively deep, from the Ancients to the Enlightenment.

The Rising Of Bella Casey by Mary Morrissy (Brandon Books, £9.99)

Irish author Morrissy tends to be missed here, but she's a superb writer, full of sensitivity and intelligence. This historical novel tells of the imagined life of Bella Casey, older sister of the more famous playwright brother Sean O'Casey, who also gets a chance to say what he thought of the beautiful young woman with so much potential.

Dreamland: Adventures In The Strange Science Of Sleep by David K Randall (WW Norton, £9.99)

Since the discovery of rapid eye movement in the 1950s, scientists have known that sleeping isn't as simple as giving the mind and body essential rest. But why some people sleepwalk and others stay in the same position all night still isn't known. Randall's study is friendly and accessible, and suitably questioning too.

Like A House On Fire by Cate Kennedy (Scribe, £12.99)

Australian short-story writer Kennedy isn't as subtle as Alice Munro, say, but she does show the difference that a little compassion between human beings can make. Many of these stories begin with misunderstanding or difficulty or a long-held assumption that is subsequently challenged by events, making her characters change their minds. Fluently told and often touching.

Lesley McDowell